HOW WE SPENT OUR SUMMER – THE PEARL’S FIRST SEASON
The 2011 Neptune Beach Pearl season was memorable in many ways.
The Pearl’s inaugural season began well before Greg Ditmer hit the team’s first home run in the second inning in an opening game win against the NorCal Longhorns. It began well before Kyle Sutherland arrived (as the first out-of-state player) at the Oakland Airport and was greeted by Gem, the Pearl mascot.
It began perhaps a year earlier, as front office managers Dustin Chavez and Scott Tully and on-field manager Brant Cummings began to bring a concept to reality. There were so many details to accomplish: recruit players, secure a field, join a league, find host families, design uniforms,buy equipment, form a coaching staff, etc.
In many ways, the first year administrative accomplishments rivaled the 17 Far West League regular season wins and playing in the Far West League tournament finale.
Even in the first year, the Pearl management took a big step towards reaching their ultimate goals. The first is to become the Bay Area’s preeminent collegiate summer baseball team and the second is to develop an organization that provides volunteers and contributions to the Alameda community.
Manager Brant Cummings succeeded in putting a quality team on the field. “It was better than what I expected,” says Cummings. “We finished second in the league championship and, more importantly, we had a positive impact in the community.”
While the best-of-the-best of collegiate talent play in the likes of the Cape Cod League and Alaska Baseball League, there are plenty of other quality players seeking to refine their baseball skills during the summer.
The Pearl’s roster included players from outstanding baseball and/or notable athletic programs such as: UCLA, U.C. Irvine, Long Beach State, Washington, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan and Boston College. Complementing these players, were local talent from Saint Mary’s, USF, Santa Clara and various junior colleges.
In all, 24 colleges were represented on the roster. Two pitchers were selected in the 2011 Major League First Year Player Draft.
Pearl fans certainly will remember particular games. For example, there was the win in mid-July against the Menlo Park Legends when Ted LeMasters crushed a walk-off home run in the 11th inning.
For Dustin Chavez, his stand-out memory is the weekend home opener against the California Glory (Lodi). However, it isn’t just the final score which is captured in Chavez’memory. “It’s the combination to see the support from the community, the execution of game day operations from ourorganization and a great game played by the Pearl for a win.”
On that Sunday, Gem arrived on the back of a Harley and Alameda Mayor, Marie Gilmore, threw out the first pitch. The late June weather was perfect and a good crowd came out. Kentucky-bound Chris Garrison pitched a gem and the Pearl won 6-1.
For Tully, he takes great satisfaction in the community feel to the team. He hopes a city which boasts the baseball roots of Dick Bartell, Willie Stargell, Dontrelle Willis and Jimmy Rollins, will continue to embrace the team in growing numbers. “The 4th of July Parade was a very special day for our organization,” says Tully. “For a first year team, our number one goal for the summer was to generate interest from Alameda. The Parade was the biggest platform to showcase the Pearl. With over 75,000 people watching it was an event the majority of our players have never experienced."
Building off of their efforts of the past year, the Pearl management already is involved in many details for the 2012 season. They are looking to expand the player and fan experience.
Mark your 2012 calendars, collegiate summer baseball in Alameda will be back.